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As the school year comes to an end, there are more and more activities and events on campus. Most recently, I was involved in the week-long Francophonie festival, which was organized by the French club. After having been recognized by the French embassy for its diversity and contribution to the French Language, the French club celebrated and showcased the various cultures of French speaking countries. The club members and I pulled our strengths together to make dishes, create performances and presentations, and promote Francophone culture.
The week-long festival started with short country presentations given to the public by students representing a particular francophone country, including Côte d’Ivoire (given by me!), Tunisia, Bretagne (a region of France), Burkina Faso, and of course, France! I even learned some fun country facts; Planet Tatooine from Star Wars is an actual town in Tunisia! There were also movie screenings such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, one of my favorite animated films, and Timbuktu, an Oscar nominee for best foreign film, which shows the effects of Jihadism on both the victims and culprits. I was very happy to see that some of the events were considered extra credit for various courses!
To conclude the event, we organized a dinner, with dishes from various francophone countries. As a result, I decided to make our famous alloco (fried plantains), fried sweet potatoes, and my own recipe called sardine fried rice. This dish in particular was a combination of a fried rice recipe, taken from my host mother during my stay in China, and Ivorian spices! The biggest challenge was obtaining ripe plantains two days before the dinner. Although it seemed impossible, we were able to find the ideal plantains in the local Walmart! Other dishes included Tunisian couscous and gratin dauphinois from France. In the audience, there were middle and high school students present, and they enjoyed the food as well as learning about the Francophone world.
Finally, the dinner came to an end with an energetic dance performance by me, Haruka, the French club’s president, and Joël from Burkina Farso, to a song called “Remanbele,” by Serge Beynaud. The dance moves were mostly based on an Ivorian dance and musical style called coupé-décalé! My friend, Yasmine, also performed an Arabic dance from Tunisia. Given the success of the festival, the French club and I look forward to making the event happen again next year, and every year after that!
Each year, Juniata holds a Liberal Arts Symposium—a day when all classes are cancelled and students have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community. Oftentimes, international students are not able to contribute to the symposium because many of them study at Juniata for only one semester. For this reason, Grace Fala, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion and professor of communication, developed the “Multicultural Storyfest.” This event takes place during the Liberal Arts Symposium and invites international students as well as other interested students to share parts of their heritage with the community.
This year, I am receiving two credits to serve as the intern for the Multicultural Storyfest. I have been working very closely with Grace and a few other students to help coordinate the largest one yet. We will have a total of 19 performances representing the following cultures and co-cultures: African, American Indian, Amish, Burmese, Buddhism, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Filipino, German, Japanese, Korean, LGBTQ, Maori, Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Salvadoran, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Personally, I will serve as the emcee for the event and also be a part of the performance representing Maori culture in New Zealand. One of my best friends studied abroad in New Zealand, so we are going to incorporate what she learned into our performance. We will be teaching about common greeting words and customs used by the Maori people. Other students will be dancing, singing, playing instruments, modeling, and reading poems.
All in all, I have gained so much valuable experience and many budding friendships from organizing this event. I have been able to meet and talk to people from all over the world!
If you’re interested in attending the Multicultural Storyfest, it’ll take place on Detwiler Plaza on Thursday, April 21st from 1:30-3:00 pm. I hope to see you there!
My study abroad experience was absolutely life-changing, so it only makes sense that it’s having lasting effects now on my senior year. Last year, I studied abroad in Russia in the fall and India in the spring, and though unique to each other, both gave me independence, self-confidence, and a greater understanding of other cultures.
This semester I am sharing that understanding of other cultures with local schools through our Language in Motion program. This program links any student who has first hand language or cultural knowledge (so anyone who studied abroad but also international students too) with K-12 teachers. I haven’t visited any classes yet, as I’m still trying to find a time that fits both my schedule and the teachers’, but I’m excited to share my experiences with the students! Throughout the semester I have been planning lessons, ranging from teaching basic words in Russian to smelling and tasting different Indian spices. Language in Motion not only enriches students’ knowledge and encourages them to study a language/go abroad but also allows me to share my experiences and practice my public speaking and teaching skills.
In addition, I am writing an honors thesis this semester, which was heavily inspired by my time abroad. One similarity that both Russia and India has is its endemic nature of political corruption. This fascinates me (especially the overarching acceptance of corruption), and resulted in questions such as, “How are corrupt acts seen by those living in the society?” “How does external information and dialogue influence the behavior of those receiving the information?” “How is corruption talked about in media outlets?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this topic could easily get out of hand and become a PhD dissertation. That last question, however, was manageable and grew into my thesis project.
For several months now, I have been looking at a single political corruption case and through qualitative methodology, I have been analyzing the language that is used in news outlets. It has been a daunting task, and I still have a ways to go. It’s been keeping me busy, maybe a little busier than a second semester senior would like! This process has and will continue to be very rewarding, though, as I’m learning so much about qualitative research and at the end of April I will present at the Liberal Arts Symposium (eek!). Ultimately, studying abroad has opened up many different avenues and opportunities for me, and I will always be incredibly grateful for that.
As I walked upstairs to my room in Pink, I noticed that my resident assistant had changed the bulletin board. It read, “Celebrate the beginning of the end.” This certainly made me stop and think. My life had been so busy lately that I almost forgot this would be my last semester at Juniata College. I always thought that I’d be ready to graduate, plunge ahead into the “real world,” and then never look back. Well, I’m pretty certain this will not be the case. Although I’m excited for what the future will hold, I’m also more nostalgic about leaving this place than I ever thought possible.
The semester certainly started off differently than all of my previous semesters. During the first two weeks of January, I traveled to the Dominican Republic again on my third Cultural Learning Tour with Juniata College. Although this has been quite the pattern for starting out my spring semester, this particular trip was different in that my father came along, too! A few months before the trip, he asked me if he could go so that he could experience the beautiful country and meet the community members who had become my second family. During the course of two weeks, we had a wonderful time and made sure not to complain too much about the extreme heat because we knew it was better than the alternative cold weather back home.
We braced ourselves for the cold, but we did not prepare ourselves for the insane amount of snow that would soon surround us. After our first week of classes, Winter Storm Jonas arrived. As the snow came down by the foot, I was at Dr. Will Dickey’s house babysitting his two little girls. By the time he and his wife, Katie, had returned home, the snow was almost a foot high, so they allowed me to stay overnight and wait to drive back in the morning. By the time I woke up, however, we had two feet of snow on the ground, so I wasn’t going anywhere for a while. Surprisingly, though, this was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. We all made breakfast together and then ventured outside to play in the snow.
All in all, the “beginning of the end” is going quite well for me, except for the fact I can’t tell if my face is still tan or if it’s wind burnt from the cold. Either way, I’m looking forward to what the rest of my last semester has in store!
After almost a month of winter break, spent mostly sleeping, I was back on campus in a flash, a week earlier than anticipated, in order to serve as an orientation leader for new international students! Meeting new students, international students in particular, is always an experience that I look forward to with enthusiasm, for I was in their shoes not too long ago.
On January 12, the new international students started to arrive and so did the snow storm. To assure their safe arrival on campus, Juniata provided them with various transportations, including Maidens Taxi, Juniata shuttle buses, and my supervisor’s own personal car. Once on campus, I, along with four other orientation leaders, were responsible for guiding them to their designated dorms. The students came from all over the world, including Mexico, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Czech Republic, England, and France. The next day was composed of helping them fill out required documents, showing them around campus, locating major academic buildings, and later, showing them around town, especially the Weis store, Standing Stone Café, and Sheetz! That was only the beginning of an amazing welcoming week.
In the days that followed, the new students were treated with some American food, which to some, was a mix of American cuisine and other countries’ cuisine. For example, María, a girl from Mexico noticed that the tacos in the States were hard and crunchy, but she believed it should have been soft like in her country. She concluded that this was an example of Mexican-American food. The Chinese students also came to a similar conclusion during our dinner at China Buffet after they noticed that Chinese-American food tended to be sweeter.
The most exciting moment of the orientation week was when we went to see the 7th Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. To many of the students, including myself, this was their first time seeing Star Wars! Now, I plan on watching the 6 previous movies during my spare time.
To this day, the International Office and Juniata College as a whole continue to make new students feel welcome. Going glow-bowling this upcoming weekend, taking a trip to State College, painting, and discovering Central-Pennsylvanian dishes are future events planned for the new students! I believe that this is the essence of Juniata: always striving to create meaningful experiences for all of its students, and I am proud to be a part of it.
Fall Break finally arrived, and it was time for our trip to Québec, Canada. The French club and I left at 8am to hit the road. We had at least an 8 hour drive ahead of us, excluding bathroom and meal breaks. After being on the road for 9 hours, we finally arrived in Canada—specifically in Ontario province, where we were cleared by customs. At about 8pm, we arrived in our first auberge (youth hostel) in Montréal. It was raining heavily, but we were able find a very nice restaurant—called Cinko–to have dinner. In Cinko, everything was priced at $5, so I used the opportunity to taste the popular poutine dish—French fries topped with cheese and gravy. Instead of French fries, I ordered the sweet potato poutine, which was delicious! Our stay in Montréal was very short, as we left for Québec City the next morning.
My first impression of Québec City was amazing. With the fall colors settled in, Québec City was breathtakingly beautiful! The hills and houses reminded me of some European cities and yet, I was still in North America. The people spoke both French and English and were very much welcoming. Among our group, we would joke about Québec being like the States but in “French!” Things were going great; we had time to explore the city, eat delicious croissants, and do some souvenir shopping, including buying maple syrup.
On Saturday Oct 17, a day before our return on campus, we had a little dilemma; after having visited the Musée de la Civilisation (the Museum of Civilization), we could not find our bus. Our driver and mentor could not recall the parking space where he had last parked the bus. After searching the area on foot for about 30 minutes, we found our beloved magic school bus hidden in plain sight, across the vast parking space. Feeling relieved, we quickly got onboard, destination, le Parc de la Chute-Montmorency–Montmorency Falls.
Seeing the waterfalls was very exciting. We took multiple selfies and helped each other take individual pictures as well. The waterfalls ran fast and strong, and walking across them on the bridge felt exhilarating. We had to take the endless wooden steps to go back down the mountain, which was not as exciting because my legs were shaking, and the height made me tense. However, I had the opportunity to see a painting of Montmorency frozen during winter, which made me decide to definitely visit this beautiful city and this site again.
Our visit came to an end the next day, and I had a hard time saying au revoir to Québec. We once again woke up very early to prepare for another 12 hour trip. This time around, we encountered a very harsh custom agent, who took two of our group members in her office for further questioning; we were stuck in No Man’s Land, for a good 40 minutes, waiting for our friends. Indeed, there was nothing wrong with their visas, so they returned with us safe and sound.
At 11:18pm, on Sunday Oct. 18, we “landed” on campus—as Professor Henderson announced—safe and sound, and went in our dorms, reserving the next day to recount our trip and its anecdotes. As I am writing this story, I am grateful for having gone on this trip and thankful to my teacher and the French Club for organizing this unforgettable visit.
When you’re applying to college, everyone will tell you about the size of classes, the statistics on graduating in four years, and employment after graduation, but that isn’t all there is to it. It’s also about the opportunities. Of course, when I applied to Juniata, they tried their best to convey to me the abundance of opportunities available, but I don’t think I really understood at the time. Well, I understand now.
Over Fall Break, I was given the chance to go to the North American Wildlife Society Conference. As a Wildlife Conservation POE, this was a huge opportunity. In attendance would be professionals, graduate students, and other undergraduate chapters of The Wildlife Society. To top it all off, the conference was to be held in Winnipeg, the capital of the Province of Manitoba. After some convincing from the other members, and some discussion with my parents, I was definitely going to go.
In total, there were nine of us going, including our chapter advisor, Dr. Chuck Yohn. We spent three days in the beautiful Canadian City of Winnipeg, two of which were filled with talks ranging from “The Importance of Evolutionary Adaptive Capacity when Preparing for the Impacts of Climate Change” to “Indigenous People’s Involvement in Wildlife Management.” By the end of those days, my brain was sore. It was so much information to even attempt to absorb, but it was beyond worth it. I was able to hear from some of the most innovative and creative thinkers in the field today, not to mention we got to spend a whole other day exploring the area. If you’re wondering, Canada is a lovely country, and I highly suggest a visit.
When the year began, I wasn’t expecting to go anywhere but home for Fall Break, but plans can change, and sometimes they should. To tell you the truth, the thing that really convinced me to go was one of those messages in the Dove chocolate wrappers. It said, “Go anywhere but home,” and so I listened. That was one smart chocolate.
Truly, the rule with any situation is that it’s what you make of it. All of the opportunities here would make no difference in my life if I didn’t choose to take advantage of them, so when you’re here, or wherever else you may be, take advantage. Do something that might scare you. Introduce yourself to people even if they may seem intimidating. Go to Winnipeg last minute. When you’re there, eat at a Tim Horton’s and experience poutine. Most importantly, always remember to listen to your Dove chocolate wrappers. You never know where you might end up because of one.
The international movie festival hosted at Juniata College helps prepare students for their study abroad experience. From May to December, I will be studying abroad in China. Watching the movie Farewell My Concubine, about the traditional Beijing Opera, helped me visualize China and begin thinking about all the aspects of Chinese culture that I was going to experience.
This movie left me with more questions than it did answers. In all honesty I do not know too much about Chinese history. The movie left me fascinated by the Chinese revolution, and how jade tea cups could change the course of a nation. Once in China, I will be able explore topics like this a lot more in depth, but since the movie was able to inspire my interest on the subject I will be able to add that to my “Before I Go to China Research” list.
I would compare the beginning of the movie to Charles Dickson’s Oliver Twist, about a boy’s life in the orphanage in London. It was very similar, but very drab and painful to watch. When we think of actors we think of someone with a glamorous life, that is not what was portrayed. Instead this movie gave us the honest truth behind what it takes to make an opera star. The movie explored the Beijing opera, and gave a glimpse into what art and culture is like in China.
I liked the movie overall, and the festival helped enhance my international experience. I look forward to seeing the Beijing opera in China as well as all the other cultural and historical marvels China has to offer
*Mike Thompson graduated from Juniata College in 2012 and earned a 2012 Teaching Fulbright in Taiwan. He will be continuing his studies at the University of Michigan this fall.
In 2009, after getting off the plane I had been trapped on for 16 hours, I think I realized for the first time how huge our planet was. I was on the first crew of Juniata students to travel to China during the summer, which has now broken into two successful trips every summer. After a whirlwind week of adventure in China, I was hooked and already planning my return.
I find myself in a similar place this year, having returned from a year spent in Jinmen, Taiwan on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant scholarship—I already can’t wait to go back! After returning from Taiwan this past year (a tough year of teaching, learning, and making great friends) I am moving on to pursue my MA in Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. I’m hoping eventually a Ph.D. is in my future, but it’s a long road, so I am doing my best to take my time!
I graduated from Juniata in the class of 2012, and of what little wisdom I have accrued, I would share about one of the best things Juniata did for me, and encourage you to take time to study abroad and study a language. No matter what your POE is focused on, the addition of language ability and foreign study is an invaluable addition to your future success.
During my year abroad in China, I traveled to Inner Mongolia, to the termination of the Great Wall, to a Lisu village on the Burmese border of Yunnan province and took intensive Chinese courses as well as coursework on Chinese topics ranging from sociology to political economy. Those courses formed the basis for my senior thesis and my whole senior year, in which I picked up a secondary emphasis in Economics. My travels reminded me that just like the United States, China has a diversity of linguistic, ethnic, and cultural groups, which I later wrote about in an independent study on political philosophy my senior year. A year abroad didn’t take away from my time at Juniata, but enriched it and drove me further my senior year.
Those experiences have been like keys for me: as soon as I began studying Chinese, it began to open doors to opportunities that were previously locked: my Fulbright grant and the funding I received for graduate study were possible because of my focus on Chinese language and culture in addition to my more POE central classes.
Most importantly, because of study abroad at Juniata and the foundation in Chinese I obtained there, I was able to build relationships across the Pacific, opening all of China and Taiwan to me for my job search, business and travel. This is the aspect that I want to emphasize to students: go. Make time in your schedule for a semester abroad: or better, a year. Connections you foster will be the keys to a successful, global future.